Shoulder Dislocation and Instability
The shoulder is a flexible and incredibly mobile joint within the body. However, because it can turn in many directions, it makes it a vulnerable joint to dislocate. A shoulder dislocation can occur as either a full or partial injury. In a partial dislocation, the head of the upper arm bone (humerus) sits partially out of the socket (glenoid). With a complete dislocation, it is all the way out of the socket. Both of these injuries can cause acute pain and instability of the shoulder.
A shoulder can dislocate in several directions – forward, backward or downward. Although the vast majority of dislocations is in a forward direction. Sometimes dislocation can tear tendons or ligaments, and it can damage nerves making it very painful.
A dislocated shoulder will show signs of swelling, numbness, weakness and bruising. Also, muscles may undergo spasm from the dislocation, which will intensify the pain.
Instability occurs when the shoulder dislocates repeatedly or you experience feelings that the shoulder is going to dislocate with your arms in certain positions.
A dislocation can be caused by a sudden pulling or an unexpected force going through the shoulder, such as in rugby, skiing and other contacts sports.
The initial treatment for a dislocated shoulder is to place the ball of the upper arm bone back into the socket; this is called ‘closed reduction.’ Pain will cease almost immediately. The shoulder will then be immobilized using a sling or strap for several weeks. A cold compress can be used several times a day to help the pain and swelling to go down.
Rehabilitation exercises can help to restore the normal range of function in the shoulder and prevent it from happening again. However surgery may be required to repair or tighten the torn or stretched ligaments.